Brown University Roll of Honorary Degrees, Including One to George Washington
Click to enlarge:
Broadside. Catalogus Eorum qui in Collegio Rhod. Ins. et Prov. Plant. ab Anno 1769, ad Annum 1795 alicujus Gradus Laurea donati Sunt. Providence, R.I., Carter and Wilkinson, c. 1795. 1 p., 18 x 22 in.
By the time Brown University awarded “Georgius Washington” an honorary Doctor of Laws (LL.D.) degree in 1790, he had already received similar degrees from Harvard (1776), Yale (1781), the University of Pennsylvania (1783), and Washington College (1789). President of the Society of the Cincinnati and President of the United States (“S.U. Præses”) are among the titles held by Washington that are cited in this Brown University broadside commemorating all of the honorary degrees handed out to date.
Brown University has conferred honorary degrees on six Presidents, but Washington was the only sitting President to receive the honor. At the college’s first commencement ceremony in 1769, Brown awarded 21 honorary degrees, ten to graduates of other colleges who requested the honor and another eleven based on their own merits. In the college’s first years, the degrees were given without the consultation of recipients, and often in absentia. Brown used the process to award degrees to English clergy in an attempt to garner support for the fledgling institution. Until 1784, all honorary degrees were Masters of Arts. In 1784, former Rhode Island colonial Governor, Declaration of Independence Signer, and Brown founder Samuel Hopkins received the first honorary Doctor of Laws degree. Washington received the same six years later.
Other notable recipients of honorary degrees listed in this broadside include prominent Revolutionary-era physician Solomon Drown (1773), Commander-in-Chief of the Continental Navy, Esek Hopkins (1775), Thomas Jefferson (1787), John Hancock (1788), Alexander Hamilton (1792), and John Jay (1794).
“Honorary Degrees,” Encyclopedia Brunoiana.”